In this video lecture, Center for Security Policy senior fellow Stephen Coughlin explains doctrinal and historical background for the recent jihadist attack in Boston. Beginning with media reports willfully confused about the motivations of the Chechen Muslim Tsarnaev brothers, Coughlin deconstructs the lineage of the ‘individual jihad’ vs. ‘jihad by bands’ or secret, foreign-controlled cells.
1. The government and media’s ‘reality dislocation’ in false narratives for Boston jihadists’ motivations.
Political or ideological considerations are promoted ahead of actual analysis. Placing motivation on idiosyncratic psychological factors constitutes a lack of understanding that, at some point, could be understood as a campaign of disinformation.
2. In one of the final pronouncements of the Ottoman Caliphate during WWI, the concept of “individual jihad” was outlined alongside other types of jihad.
The statement included a Koranic proof putting “individual jihad” into context. The major schools of Islamic law agree that a “call to jihad” is binding, especially when issued from the seat of the Caliph. Another type of jihad described by the statement is “jihad by bands” (also known as brigands); “the most profitable of [jihad by bands] is that which makes the use of ‘secret formations’”– otherwise known today as terrorist cells.
3. Any analysis of the Boston bombing– especially considering the use of pressure cooker bombs– should have begun with an awareness of al Qaeda’s 2010 change in strategy.
In it’s first edition of the English-language Inspire Magazine, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula outlined its change of strategy in its conflict with the West: it would move from an emphasis on ‘secret formations/organizations’ and ‘overt fronts and open confrontation’ to “individual jihad,” known as “lone-wolf terrorism.”
4. “How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”
Inspire Magazine included a recipe for pressure cooker bombs in its first edition and, crucially, reprised that article in its most recent edition on “the Lone Mujahid” (the individual jihadist). Interestingly, the issue– which was released in Spring 2013, just in advance of the Boston attack– featured a photograph of Times Square on its cover. Note the next target of the Tsarnaev brothers was reported to be Times Square.
5. Convergence of al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood stages.
The inaugural edition of Inspire Magazine included a notice to da’wah-oriented Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood; the message was that events on the ground in the Muslim world were primed for proceeding from ‘Mecca’ stage to the ‘Media’ stage, as according to the Milestones Process and the concept of Abrogation in Islamic law. Essentially, it is a call to go to war. In late 2010, the Muslim Brotherhood reoriented itself under new leadership and seemed to embrace the transition to the more militant phase, also putting emphasis on “individual acts of sacrifice” or jihad/martyrdom operations.[For more analysis of the Islamist convergence, see ‘Part 4: The Muslim Brotherhood, Arab Spring & the Milestones Process‘]
6. The winter 2012 issue of Inspire Magazine outlines what is meant by ‘Individual jihad’– with consideration to attacking large sporting events, of which the Boston Marathon was certainly one.
Inspire point out, also, that the lone jihadist should avoid killing foreigners from countries with which the Islamic Ummah is not at war. In line with that guidance, the Tsarnaev brothers waited until most foreign nationals had finished the race and set off the bombs during the time when average Americans, for the most part, were in the blast radius.
7. What al Qaeda Really Wants, circa 2005.
Investigative reporting in Der Spiegel with remarkable access to and insight from al Qaeda strategists points to AQ goals and– surprisingly– how closely their milestones have been met. The “Fourth Phase” predicts the collapse of the relatively secular Arabic governments (in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, etc.), to be followed by the overthrow of the kingdoms. The Fifth Phase describes the rise of the Caliphate and the Sixth is “total confrontation” with the west. For a group that the Obama administration calls, “on the ropes,” they are well into their multi-phase plan.
8. “Against them Make Ready” and Convergence.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s motto as a da’wah organization, taken from the first words of Koran 8:60, is “Against them make ready.” The following phrase– “…and prepare against them to the utmost of your power” appears on the cover of the Spring 2013 Inspire Magazine special Lone Mujahid Pocketbook. Also in the same issue, al Qaeda re-published the pressure cooker bomb recipe. (Did they have any operational awareness?)
9. The Explanatory Memorandum’s “Process of Settlement.”
Analyzing the Muslim Brotherhood in America’s strategic document, as entered into evidence in America’s largest terrorism funding trial, US vs. Holy Land Foundation. From the Memorandum: “The process of settlement is a ‘Civilization-Jihadist Process’ with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” In other words, the Muslim Brotherhood defines “settlement” as “a jihadist process.”
10. “Islamic Center of…” / Islamic Society of…”
Both phrases can be seen as “brands” indicating involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood at the leadership or foundational level. The Explanatory Memorandum goes on to describe how “The Islamic Center in every city… achieves the goal of the Process of Settlement” [defined earlier as a ‘Civilization-Jihadist Process’]: “The Islamic Center [is] in action not in words.. a seed ‘for a small Islamic society’ which is a reflection and a mirror to our central organizations.” In other words, Muslim Brotherhood-established and administered mosques in the United States should be assessed according to this mission. This is especially true for mosques with strong ties to MB entities like the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), both unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation trial.
11. The Islamic Centers’ mission is to “supply our battalions.”
The Explanatory Memorandum further defines the goals and strategic uses for its Islamic Centers: it “should be the same as the mosque’s role during the time of God’s prophet… when he marched to ‘settle’ the Da’wah in its first generation in Medina, from the mosque…” This makes clear the Muslim Brotherhood’s future vision; in the first generation of Islam, Mohammed used mosques in the Medina period as staging areas for attacks on non-Muslim tribes in Arabia. The military implications of this phrase are clear and important to understand.
12. “Islamic Society of…” Boston.
Founded by Abdulrahman Alamoudi, a long-time Muslim Brother who was convicted of attempted murder of a foreign dignitary with al Qaeda involvement. Similarly, Anwar al Awlaki was a popular and powerful voice of “moderate Islam” before revealing himself as the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The lesson is, when dealing with Muslim Brotherhood, there are no sharp dividing lines between that and more well-known “militant jihadist” groups.
13. The Purge of Counterterror Training.
About Stephen Coughlin
Over more than a decade following 9/11, MAJ Stephen Coughlin was one of the US government’s most astute and objective analysts, and an expert in the connections between Islamic law, terrorism and the jihadist movement around the globe. Through knowledge of published Islamic law, MAJ Coughlin had an demonstrated ability to forecast events both in the Middle East and domestically and to accurately assess the future threat posture of jihadist entities before they happen. He has briefed at the Pentagon, for national and state law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and on Capitol Hill for Members of Congress. With this series of presentations, the general public has access to a professional standard of intelligence training in order to better understand the jihadist threat.
Stephen Coughlin’s lectures for the Center for Security Policy Counterterror Training Education and Analysis (CTEA) program on YouTube: